Life After Death…The Soul Remains As a Handprint on Your Heart
“I have died every day, waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…” Christina Perri
What do you do when your best friend, your rock, your heartbeat, your touchstone is gone from a sickening disease such as Glioblastoma Stage IV? This brilliant soul that the universe has blessed you with for 29 years……Yes, you offer up gratitude for your time together. You thank the universe for sending her into your life and blessing you with her sage advice. Since she was 18 years your senior, she offered wise advice, a solid rock to stand on and propelled you onto your own brilliance. But again, what do you do when it’s gone? When the brain cancer that annihilated the brilliant mind and strong body have eaten away at every aspect of her being? When she no longer resembles anything you knew except for the name she still carries? Well, if you have an answer, I am open to it. Also, I know I am not the only one facing this dilemma. When every breath you take hurts because the person you counted on before you met your husband and soulmate is gone…again, what do you do? This is not meant to be an inspirational article, but a real one. I will offer up some ideas that have gotten me through the past sixty days since she transcended this plane, but I do not pretend to be an expert.
In life, we hide from the pain that is present when we lose our touchstones. As if it is something to be ashamed of…. the pain, the emptiness, the hole in your heart that can’t be filled by anything. It isn’t meant as a depressive Depeche Mode song targeted only at EMO’s who all think life’s struggles and pains are worth wearing black. As someone who works with young adults, there are those individuals who understand this pain and don’t attribute it to their skewed perspective of the world going to hell. After being the care taker and working with Hospice to two people who were my world, and sitting next to a mother-in-law who was the world to her five children and a devoted husband as she succumbed to liver cancer, and now watching my best friend die from brain cancer, I no longer have any answers. In my neophyte stage, I thought I knew it all…. I thought it all summed up to some cosmic insight that would be revealed by going through the pain. I used to think, in my younger days, there was a purpose. A grand design.
Then I woke up from my fairy tale and saw reality. The lesson is what we make it. It is how we carry on their ideas, beliefs, passions, and their love. It isn’t about the hole in our heart. It is about moving forward… no longer how long it takes our hearts to do this. I can tell you, mine isn’t moving very fast. Every time I have something happen in my life, I pick up the cell phone to tell Siri to call “Becky home”. However, I soon realize her voice won’t be at the other end. I keep citing Christina Perri because I just got finished watching the Twilight series with my twelve-year old daughter who sees a fictional world where nobody dies…. everyone is beautiful, young and happy. She cannot fathom the magnitude of her “Aunt Becky” not coming back because she is young and innocent. She still believes in fairy tales. Although her intellect understands, her young heart cannot grasp the enormity and permanence of her loss. In her words, this past weekend, “You get bit by a vampire, get to retain your youth and beauty and gain powers you never had before as you transition into your new ‘vampire hood’…Isn’t that cool Mom? As I try to explain to a twelve-year old that this is not how life works and “yes” I understand how “awesome” it would be if it did, I just keep reflecting back to the loss of Becky. I don’t feel any braver…..I feel lost.
Yes, I still have a magnificent husband and daughter and I am not ungrateful for their health and happiness, but how does a person move on? There is an Eddie Vedder song he wrote with Pearl Jam that talks about being lucky if you meet enough people to place on one hand to help guide you through this life (now I am showing my age) …I was blessed with that. Now the only one I have left is a husband, my family and my best friend’s husband. You may think I am lucky to have these people…. I know I am. However, it still doesn’t replace the special person that is gone…. forever. I try to feel her presence, but I don’t yet. I know I will…eventually. But every female will tell you that there is a special bond felt between two women who are best friends…an unspoken truth and acceptance that never needs to be discussed. For all intents and purposes, my touchstones are gone. As I listen to the Christina Perri song that my daughter loves from Breaking Dawn talking about “how to be brave, how can I love when I am afraid to fall…. all of my doubt suddenly goes away somehow” …. I encounter the cold truth. Life is filled with circumstances we cannot control. The pain we watch is a gift. It reminds us of the worth and guidance these people gave us. The pain keeps it real. It isn’t to say that we remain in pain. That’s not the purpose of pain. Pain is meant to propel us further down our path…. physically, mentally, emotionally…. if we let it. The problem is that as humans we have learned to fight it because we abhor the feeling. Who wouldn’t? It’s horrific! If you skin your knee, you put Neosporin on it and a band aid. Unfortunately, life is not filled with Band Aid commercials and moments. You can’t band aid a heart…. believe me, I wish you could. What you can do is recognize and admit how broken your heart is, get up every morning (even when you don’t feel like it and it hurts to breathe) and be brave to face the day alone with their memory. You pray you carry on their legacy and strength in all your interactions…all the gifts they gave you. Instead, you realize you have your own core and that the person who left is still there and has touched your inner most soul…strengthened it as if they were a personal trainer. This isn’t meant to be esoteric as I AM NOT ESOTERIC in the least. Just as everyone else moving through grief, I am a fellow pilgrim just trying to breath when I think of my best friend. But here are a few things that have made my days easier.
· Think of the laughs and special moments…they brought you strength and made you who you are today
· Know that it will take time to “feel” them in your presence…
· Any regrets you have, write them down on a piece of paper and burn them. Just like the person who has transcended, so have your regrets. Holding onto them does nothing.
· Let go of guilt and anger by journaling your feelings. Guilt and anger are just ways to beat yourself up and the person wouldn’t want that…even the “living” would never wish another human to feel immense guilt and hurt. Forgiveness is always the answer.
· Look at pictures. You don’t have to connect with them if they don’t feel real yet because all you see is the cancer or disease, but know one day you will remember.
· Take walks…nature does the heart good and heals because of its wondrous beauty.
· Try to talk to him or her…. eventually, you will hear them talk back. Not like you are Sybille, but like you hear and feel his or her presence.
· If you both watched movies and tv shows together, watch them again. It will give you new meaning and clarity into your relationships.
· Know that the emotions hit “wave upon wave” …. like the country song. Be patient and gentle with yourself.
· Know that YOU ARE HIS OR HER LEGACY…it will bring you peace. Just as they left a handprint on your heart, you will leave theirs AND yours on another person’s heart because they made you who you are.
· If you were fortunate enough to be there when they left this world, thank them…it was the greatest gift they ever gave you.
· Don’t let the people who criticize how you handled the death and are still angry determine how you deal with your emotions everyday….after all, “Nobody ever built a monument to critic” and you just went through hell and back.
· Finally, know you carry them with you everywhere. You wouldn’t be who you are today without having known them.
Unfortunately, the Twilight Series isn’t true to life. People we love leave use. We have to watch suffering, pain and death. However, we also experience the joy of them being a part of our souls forever…kind of like an atom on the periodic table… they make up a percentage of our total mass. What a gift to give someone! I said, at the beginning, this wasn’t inspirational, but maybe it turned out to be helpful and a little enlightening. You aren’t alone.